At last week’s end-of-season press conference, Chicago Blackhawks general manager reflected on why, in his mind, it made sense to move on from franchise legends Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. In his comments, he mentioned the desire for younger players to feel empowered to take on leadership roles, and noted it would be easier for that to happen without the looming presence of two hockey legends.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily putting the past behind us,” Davidson began. “It’s more so clearing the deck to allow the organic growth for young players in the leadership roles and offer this new era of Blackhawks player the same opportunity that Toews, Kane, [Duncan] Keith, [Brent] Seabrook were all offered when they came into the league. When there’s a player like Jonathan or Patrick in your locker room, you defer to them, you just let them handle the leadership and there’s not a lot of development opportunity there.”
On Monday, we had the chance to interview Blackhawks and IceHogs defenseman Alex Vlasic ahead of Rockford’s series vs Iowa. Greg Boysen asked about the differences in his experience in 2022 vs 2023.
“It was a lot more chill, I’d say,” Vlasic said. “I remember at the start of last year, I felt like I was kinda walking around on eggshells, which I feel like is pretty normal, especially when you got some big names in the locker room like Toewser and Kaner. I feel like this year was a lot easier for me to make the transition and not really worry about that stuff … not really worry about the different atmosphere. I just kind of jumped right in and started playing hockey.”
Now, before we continue, I want to be clear that these quotes come off much worse in print than they did on video/audio, so I encourage everyone to check out the show (or the clip above) for themselves.
As the interview went on, I wanted to circle back to those comments. I asked Vlasic if the different feelings he felt this season were because Kane and Toews weren’t present.
“Right away, you’re playing with Patrick Kane … you’re not going to feel comfortable being your same self that you would be around somebody that you’re playing with … one of your best buddies on the team. It’s just impossible. I look up to this guy. I’ve looked up to him for so long. He’s such a good player, so you’re going to defer him, whether that be off the ice, but on the ice as well,” Vlasic said. “This season, to the games that I’ve played now, it felt a lot different in the locker room. Just a younger vibe. A lot of new players as well, so I felt a little bit more comfortable, and just even being around those guys [Kane and Toews] last year, and in training camp gave me a lot more confidence and more [comfort] around them.”
The CHGO Blackhawks crew has believed in this philosophy long before Kyle Davidson brought it up on Thursday. It’s not a knock on Kane or Toews in any way, shape, or form, but any time two icons of an iconic franchise are in the room, those in their presence will have some level of awe and intimidation. Without those presences, young and different players will feel emboldened to take on leadership like never before.
Now the Band-Aid is torn off. The page has been turned. I’m excited to see this next generation of Blackhawks truly take hold. Let’s see if any of them can hold a candle to Kane or Toews.
Oh Captain, My Captain!
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